THE ART OF THE STATE

Socialist realism was the officially approved type of art in the Soviet Union for nearly sixty years. Communist doctrine decreed that all material goods and means of production belonged to the community as a whole. This included works of art and the means of producing art, which were also seen as powerful propaganda tools. During the October Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks established a movement called Proletkult (the Proletarian Cultural and Enlightenment Organizations), which sought to put all arts into the service of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the early years of the Soviet Union, Russian and Soviet artists embraced a wide variety of art forms under the auspices of Proletkult. Revolutionary politics and radical non-traditional art forms were seen as complementary. Art was to be produced solely for the education and inspiration of the people. Optimistic images of work and the heroic worker celebrated the virtues of communism and patriotism, and glorified the state. Many forms of artistic experimentation were condemned as a sign of decadent Western influence and, therefore, anticommunist principles.

Chinese Socialist Realism art has its roots in two main styles: the New Woodcut Movement of the 1930s and 1940s and the Socialist Realism Art of the Soviet Union.  Leftist writer Lu Xun was a strong proponent of woodcut art, believing that it could be used to influence the Chinese to change their society. Woodcuts were used in Japanese resistance propaganda and to criticize the ruling Nationalist party. Many of these artists participated in the Long March, a year-long 8,000-mile military retreat of the Red Army against the Nationalists in 1934 that ended in Yan’an, the city in the north-central province of Shaanxi Province that became their base. At Yan’an, the communists established the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts where many artists studied both woodcut and other techniques. Communist leader Mao Zedong’s talks on “Art and Literature” in 1942 further influenced these artists to travel and study under folk artists to create artistic propaganda with the purpose of improving the nation.

After the Communists won the Chinese civil war and founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China invited Soviet experts to visit and advise them on the construction of a new nation; they also sent Chinese experts to study in the Soviet Union. Oil painting became a priority among these artists, who mixed the blockish feel of woodcuts with the Soviet style of Socialist Realism. From the start, the Chinese style of Socialist Realism differed slightly from the Soviet. The colors were brighter, and paintings included watercolor like gradations in tone. The outlines of the subjects were also more clearly defined, perhaps due to the influence of woodcut art. In 1959, the Sino-Soviet split led to a return to more traditional Chinese styles, though the form of art continued. Socialist Realism saw a rebirth during the Cultural Revolution from 1966-1976 when many national art exhibitions were organized by Mao’s wife Jiang Qing.

This exhibition will discuss the relationship between the art of these two communist nations and the impact of socialist realism on their people.


国艺

社会主义现实主义六十多年间一直是苏联官方认可的艺术形式。共产主义的基本信条是所有物质产品和生产工具都归集体所有。其中就包括艺术作品以及艺术生产工具,当然,艺术也被认为是一种强有力的宣传手段。1917年十月革命期间,布尔什维克党发起了一场名为“无产阶级文化启蒙”的运动,主要目标就是要让一切形式的艺术都为无产阶级专政服务。苏联建国初期,苏联艺术家在无产阶级文化启蒙组织的支持下,尝试了大量丰富多样的艺术形式。革命政治和大胆的非传统艺术形式被认为是紧密结合的。而艺术的唯一目的就是教育和启发人民大众。有关工作和先进生产者的乐观形象歌颂了共产主义和爱国主义,赞扬了国家统治。许多艺术实验被斥为受到西方影响的腐化,因此是反共产主义的。

中国社会主义现实主义主要来源于两种风格:上世纪三四十年代的新木刻运动,以及苏联传来的社会主义现实主义艺术。左翼作家鲁迅是木刻艺术的强烈支持者,他认为这种艺术形式可以用来唤醒中国人改变自己的社会。木刻画是抗日战争期间重要的抗日宣传工具,也被用来批评国民党当时的统治。许多木刻艺术家1934年参加了红军针对国民党军队的战略大撤退,这段为期一年、全长8000英里的军事转移也就是后来人们所说的“长征”。长征最后到达陕西延安并在那里建立了革命根据地。驻扎延安期间,共产党创建鲁迅美术学院,很多艺术家在此学习木刻以及其他技术。共产党领导人毛泽东1942年的延安文艺座谈讲话更是进一步影响了这批艺术家。他们纷纷到全国各地学习民间艺术,希望建立一个能够推动国家进步的艺术宣传体系。

内战结束,1949年中华人民共和国成立后,中国邀请了许多苏联专家来华做新中国建设的顾问,同时派遣了中方专家去苏联访问学习。油画成为这批艺术家的首选媒介,他们糅合了木刻的块状构图与苏联风格的社会主义现实主义。从一开始,中国的社会主义现实主义就和苏联现实主义有细微差别。中国油画颜色更鲜艳,而且带有水彩画效果的色调层次。画中人物的轮廓线也更清晰,也许是受木刻艺术的影响。1959年,中苏关系恶化导致向中国传统风格的复归,尽管现实主义油画这种形式仍然保留了下来。社会主义现实主义在1966-1976年文化大革命期间经历了一次重生,当时很多国家美术展览都是毛泽东的妻子江青组织策划的。

本展览将探讨两个共产主义国家艺术之间的关系以及社会主义现实主义对两国人民产生的影响。